The New York Knicks have struggled all season. New acquisitions like Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace have not panned out as well as hoped. Re-signing J.R. Smith has not worked out well either. Tyson Chandler has missed time due to injury and Raymond Felton has regressed mightily this season. That leaves Carmelo Anthony to carry the Knicks on his own.
There are plenty of reasons why the Knicks have struggled. Their defense is terrible, too much switching on picks. They lack ball movement on offense. And injuries have hurt their front line with Chandler having missed almost two months and Kenyon Martin and Amar’e Stoudemire missing some time and having minute restrictions on them.
But the one thing the Knicks are missing is energy and emotion. In past years, Tyson Chandler has been the Knicks’ emotional leader. Always the first off the bench, always screaming after big dunks or blocks. His emotion was infectious. Jeremy Lin and Landry Fields were best friends and always had great chemistry together, before both left the Knicks. After Steve Novak used to hit a three-pointer, he would do the “discount double check” motion, which fired up fans and teammates. Rasheed Wallace and Jason Kidd were coaches in uniform for the Knicks last year; ironically, both are actual coaches now.
The point is, the Knicks used to have fun. They rallied around Chandler. Or Lin. Or Kidd. But this season there has been no rally cry. Instead, just crying. So many times you will see Smith or Iman Shumpert dribble the ball up the court and fire a three. Felton drives to the basket in traffic or Chandler can’t catch the ball down low are two other issues you see on offense. The Knicks seriously lack ball movement. It’s almost as if it is every man for themselves out there. And that is not how you win in the NBA.
The Knicks’ players do not have to be best friends. But they need to have fun on the court and clearly that is not happening. Most people will say winning is fun and leads to happiness. But the Knicks aren’t winning. And do not look like a team that will be winning any time soon. They need an injection of energy and emotion. Right now, the Knicks look like 15 guys who show up for work, go through the motions, get through the day and go home. That’s not a winning formula in the NBA. Caring about your teammates, showing the fans what they are paying for and working hard are small steps toward winning.
Too often, Anthony seems disengaged, either on the floor or on the bench, sometimes rolling his eyes and shaking his head when his teammates make a mistake. Instead of moping, Anthony should pat his teammates on the back and keep their heads up. That was Kidd and Wallace’s jobs last year. No one does that for the Knicks this year.
Head coach Mike Woodson is typically a stoic guy and is not going to bleed emotion into his players. So it is up to the players themselves to dig down deep and rally around each other. And play with the energy and passion that champions play with. Or they will continue to play one-on-five on offense and continue to lose.